Candidates Will Learn Their Fate

Knobel, Mulhern-Larsen, and Turner vs. Cantwell, Overby, and Van Scoyoc
Top row: Cantwell, Overby, and Van Scoyoc vs. Knobel, Mulhern-Larsen, and Turner, bottom row.

In Tuesday’s election in East Hampton, two first-time candidates and one with a long involvement in local politics are challenging three Democratic incumbents for the town supervisor and town board seats.

Larry Cantwell, the supervisor, is running for a second two-year term, while Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc are each seeking their second four-year terms on the town board. Tom Knobel, who is also the East Hampton Town Republican Committee chairman, hopes to unseat Mr. Cantwell. His running mates are Margaret Turner and Lisa Mulhern-Larsen.

Mr. Cantwell, who describes himself as a “consensus-builder,” said that under his leadership a formerly dysfunctional town government that treated the public with disrespect has been changed for the better.

He points to a surplus in the budget, a reduction in debt, and an upgraded credit rating as some of the accomplishments of his first term. Reducing aircraft noise at East Hampton Airport has been another priority.

A balanced budget, drinking-water protection, and improving the local economy are top priorities for Mr. Cantwell. He also wants to continue to improve code enforcement and to focus on long-term planning to address sea level rise. “Many of the problems we have in this community still result from overdevelopment and overcrowding,” he commented in a September debate, saying that preservation of open space can help reduce those pressures.

Mr. Cantwell retired from his post as the East Hampton Village administrator in 2013 after more than 30 years on the job. Before that, he was an East Hampton Town councilman for five years. He also served on the town planning board and on the board of the East Hampton Housing Authority.

A native of Amagansett and a lifelong resident of East Hampton Town, his involvement in town politics began in 1975 when he was elected a bay constable, a position that no longer exists. He first ran for supervisor in 1981 in an unsuccessful bid against the Republican incumbent, Mary Fallon. Mr. Cantwell, who has been endorsed by the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Long Island Environmental Forum, Newsday, and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., is running on the Democratic, Independence, and Working Families lines.

Mr. Knobel has been elected to public office six times, once as a town board member and five times as a town trustee, serving a total of 14 years. His current campaign for town supervisor is his second run for the job; he ran unsuccessfully in 1997.

“Essentially, the keynote has been to preserve the character of East Hampton by preserving the ability of its people to live here,” Mr. Knobel said on Tuesday. “This campaign has been about trying to address the difficulties people have existing and staying in their own town.”

He has promised to push for better code enforcement and more affordable housing opportunities as well as policies that support job creation. Among other things, he has suggested that the town lobby the state to increase the limit on improved properties that are exempt from the 2-percent real estate transfer tax, from $250,000 to $500,000.

Mr. Knobel has criticized the current town board for holding too many closed-door sessions, for failing to take action on important issues, and for failing to enforce legislation already on the books while simultaneously proposing new laws. “Reflexive fattening of the town code will never be the solution to immediate problems,” he says in his campaign literature.

A past president of the East Hampton Town Baymen’s Association, Mr. Knobel was a commercial fisherman for 25 years, starting in 1976, and now works for the Suffolk County Board of Elections. He lives in Springs.

He has served as a chairman of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee and on the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s marine committee, in addition to his many years as chairman of the local G.O.P. He is running on the Republican, Conservative, and Reform Party lines.

Ms. Overby cited her work on housing, the environment, and chain store limits as among her accomplishments during her first term. She has supported efforts to rein in airport noise, and wants to continue the town’s work to address noise problems, overcrowding, litter, and nightclubs.

Before winning election in 2011, she served for seven years on the East Hampton Town Planning Board, four of them as its chairwoman.

A 31-year resident of Amagansett, where she and her husband, Steve, raised their two sons, she served for many years on the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee and was its chairwoman for six. She headed the hamlets and villages subcommittee for a citizens’ group working on a 2005 update of the East Hampton Town Comprehensive Plan.

She has a bachelor’s degree in biology, and taught that subject in middle school. While living in Atlanta, Ms. Overby started her own successful business baking restaurant cheesecakes.

She has been endorsed by the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum, Eleanor’s Legacy, and Mr. Thiele, and is running with the backing of the Democratic and Working Families Party.

Issues surrounding water quality, energy needs, quality of life, coastal resiliency, and long-term hamlet planning are at the top of Mr. Van Scoyoc’s agenda. “We’re starting to tackle the idea of adapting to changes in the environment, particularly sea level rise,” he said Tuesday. “We need to be thinking ahead so we can adapt to those changes in a structured and well-planned way rather than just reacting to catastrophic loss.”

An important change for the better during his time on the board, he said, has been in the way government interacts with town employees, colleagues, and the public. “The town board had really become dysfunctional” under the previous administration, he said. Now, “we welcome the public into the process, which has meant that some of those issues remain unresolved, because we’re still looking to find consensus within the community.”

Prior to his election, Mr. Van Scoyoc served for six years on the planning board. He also served a five-year term on the zoning board of appeals, the last year as its chairman.

He runs his own residential construction company and a seasonal charter-fishing business. His wife, Marilyn, is an East Hampton High School music teacher and band director. While their son and daughter were growing up, Mr. Van Scoyoc volunteered his time coaching Little League, girls softball, and youth soccer in East Hampton and Springs.

Mr. Van Scoyoc, who is running on the Democratic, Independence, and Working Families lines, said he was pleased that the town board has been able to put steps in place to curtail aircraft noise to keep East Hampton Airport a “local airport for recreational flyers” as opposed to a “regional hub.” He said that the Army Corps project on the Montauk beach was temporary and that a long-term answer for the downtown’s vulnerability must be found.

Ms. Turner was the executive director of the East Hampton Business Alliance for 10 years before stepping down in July to focus on her campaign for town board. As the business alliance director, she said, she has attended every town board meeting for a decade, analyzing proposed town legislation and communicating its relevance to local businesses.

Her 2015 campaign for a seat on the board marks her first run for an elected position. Ms. Turner has served since 2009 on six different town committees, appointed by three different supervisors, to work on issues such as affordable housing, energy sustainability, wastewater management, and business relations.

A resident of East Hampton for close to 20 years, she is actively involved in Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church and charitable organizations and events such as Maureen’s Haven and the church’s Silver Tea. She also runs her own pet care business. She has said that concern for the local environment must be balanced against the need for jobs and affordable housing. Ms. Turner is running on the Republican, Conservative, and Reform Party lines.

Ms. Mulhern-Larsen is a native of Montauk who lives in East Hampton, runs a private security business, and is a licensed associate real estate broker with Brown Harris Stevens in Amagansett. Her name can be found on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party lines; she won an Independence Party primary in September. Her campaign for town board is her first run for a public office.

Ms. Mulhern-Larsen’s list of community involvements includes the East Hampton Community Council, the board of the Stella Maris Regional School, and the East Hampton Town Recreation Advisory Committee. She coached and served as a vice president in the East Hampton Little League Association, and is a past president of the East Hampton Women’s Softball League. She and her husband, East Hampton Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen, have six children between the ages of 17 and 23.

She has said that problems, especially in Montauk, are not being solved, and that the current board is doing nothing to help people who live in the Town of East Hampton.
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With Reporting by Joanne Pilgrim, David E. Rattray, and Christine Sampson